Sunday, 23 April 2017

GREAT LIBRARY OF DREAMS #33 - Out of the Earth

Once again Mr Jim Moon invites you to the cosy fireside of the Great Library of Dreams to hear a classic tale of terror. This time we have an eerie little story from Flavia Richardson AKA Christine Campbell Thomson, a lady who knew a thing or two about what made a terrifying tale! 


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Sunday, 16 April 2017

MICROGORIA 41 - The Beaver Book of Horror

In this little episode, Mr Jim is once more delving into the world of horror books for kids, and the writings of Mr Daniel Farson. Following on from our discussion of the Hamyln Book of Horror, we now turn to a much-loved paperback tome, an indispensable guide to the realms of terror,  The Beaver Book of Horror! Stop laughing at the back! 

DIRECT DOWNLOAD - MICROGORIA 41 - The Beaver Book of Horror

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017


Welcome once again dear fiends to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! This week, we've been digging in the games cupboard once more and I've dragged out another item from yesteryear to tease and tantalise your memory. Or rather, perhaps in this case, to re-open old wounds and childhood traumas. Yes, I know, I'm all heart! 

Well then chums, you know what they say... Some games are born great. Some games achieve greatness. And some games have greatness thrust upon them. And today's offering is absolutely none of those! It resides far away from any of those categories, for it is a game that will never in any circumstances come anywhere near great in any way, shape or form. It  truly puts the 'bored' in board games, and also was the cause of many a pernicious case of long-lasting bitter disappointment. In fact, for a certain generation of kids, it is a strong contender for one of the most disappointing toys ever foisted upon an unsuspecting public. 

And what is this benighted game? Well it is Tank Command from Ideal. Now when this hit the toy stores back in 1975, this looked massively exciting. And what's more there was a whole generation of little boys eager to lap up anything with a World War Two flavour. Growing up in the early 70s, WWII was literally everywhere - on the telly there was Colditz, Dad's Army, Secret Army, and probably some other shows with 'army' in the title too that I can't remember right now. Toy shops were stuffed with Action Man in a variety of WWII uniforms and vehicles, the must have board game was Escape from Colditz, and all that before we get to the battalions of Airfix models and legions of toy soldiers. And British comics for boys were full of vintage warfare too - in 1974 DC Thompson had launched the highly exciting Warlord comic, while in early 1975 IPC had responded with the ground-breaking and gritty Battle Picture Weekly. Indeed there was so much World War II everywhere you might have thought that the war was still going on, or at least had only just recently ended.

So then in this war-torn climate, a game promising explosive battles between armoured divisions was obviously a sure-fire winner! And no doubt that is exactly what veteran British toy fim Ideal thought, and they whipped up a suitably exciting advert for the telly to promote this latest slice of WWII action! And what an advert it was! Check it out! 

It is a very clever advert and one that has haunted the minds of the target audience for many years, although admittedly not perhaps for the best of reasons. But a brilliant example of the advertiser's dark arts it certainly is. To start with, note that it features two Dads playing the game, instantly giving it a sparkly coat of "this ain't just kids' stuff, sonny" - always an attractive sheen that plays well with the kids. No annoying stage school brats here! Secondly, it is a powerful indicator of how much WWII imagery was floating about in children's culture back in the mid '70s that the advertisers knew full well that the target audience would instantly recognise facsimiles of Field Commander Montgomery and Rommel. It seems strange now, but I can attest that this pair of famous foes did have almost pin-up status among the schoolboys of Britain at that time.  

But thirdly, and most cunningly of all however, note too that this ad pitches the game as an exercise in strategy. Oh no, this isn't just glorifying war, dear parent, it's educational, it's like chess! However the ad manages to have its cake and eat it, for it also makes very clear that for all its talk of cunning and strategic play, it is actually about FIRE! BANG! FUCK ME! DID YOU SEE THOSE FUCKING TANKS GO FUCKING EVERYWHERE? I BET THEY SMASHED EVERY FUCKING WINDOW IN THE BASTARD HOUSE FLYING OFF THAT FUCKING BOARD! 

..Ooops... Sorry... Got a bit carried away there!

 But it's true! Could this game either a) look anymore exciting and b) say anymore clearly:  BUY THIS NOW YOU LITTLE BASTARD ?  

Yes, the advertisers knew their market well. What's more they understood that Tank Command was a BIG PRESENT. That is to say, this wasn't something you bought with your pocket money, or saved up for. No, this was a job for a birthday, or a top item on a list to Santa. Hence the ad is designed to generate maximum pester power from the kids, while at the same time appearing worthy enough to appeal to parents.  

However there was one ghastly snag to all of this, one that would only become apparently after the wrapping paper had been torn off. That was that the game itself is actually mind-crushingly dull. Basically for all the talk of strategy, shells and tank combat, what it all boils down to is this. The players simultaneously fires a shell at each other. And this is done by... wait for it... picking a number between one and ten, represented by some odd looking pegs nestled behind screens at the ends of the board. The choices are revealed - the screens tilt open you see - and whoever picked higher wins. The two numbers are added together, and the winner gets to move his tanks forward by that amount. And yes, all the tanks move all together, all the time. So there's no exciting manoeuvers here - it's just all forward or all back. In a straight line. Forever! Then shells are fired again, I mean, numbers are picked again, with the twist being that you can't pick a number you've had before. And this continues until one side's tanks have been pushed back onto a minefield i.e. the edge of the board. Or rather in most case, until all the numbers are gone. In which case, you play another round. Oh, still my beating heart! 

And what about the explosive action? Well once on the minefield, you can pull a string with a knob on the end... And no, I'm not referring to how you felt for being suckering into getting this game. No, you pull said string and this raises some little pegs in the mines which then knock the little tanks out of position... A bit... Sometimes... If you were lucky... 

Yes, there was certain a noticeable dearth of model tanks flying into the air in an explosive fashion. And what's more, a distinct lack of any excitement in the gameplay, which essentially was just picking random numbers. All too often, the result of the "shelling" was the tanks driving forward and back over the middle of the board, with neither side reach the mines. Yes, Tank Command was something of a wash-out. Which is a shame really, as the game parts themselves were very nicely designed - the board looked fantastic, and the model tanks were nice.  

*Actual excitement not included! 

Now arguably, all this pointless lurching about in No Man's Land was actually a highly accurate simulation of what was really happened much of the time in World Wars I and II, but historical accuracy doth not necessarily make for an exciting game for ages 8 and above. And in this case it most definitely didn't; a fact compounded by the feeble nudging of toy tanks that came in place of the flying models seen in the advert. Indeed, for many of us, Tank Command was a first and bitter lesson about truth in advertising...

Sunday, 9 April 2017

HYPNOGORIA 55 - Zombi Zombi Part 11 - White Zombie

In this episode, Mr Jim Moon takes an in-depth look at the world's first ever zombie movie, with a full commentary track for White Zombie from 1932, starring the legendary Bela Lugosi. And as this movie is in the public domain, you can watch along legally and for free here - 

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  Zombi Zombi Part 11 - White Zombie

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Wednesday, 5 April 2017


Welcome dear friend once more to the deary den of dubious delights that is the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Now then, in the last few explorations of the eerie ephemera and arcane items found within these crumbling walls, the subjects of mail order ads has reared its suspect head a couple of times, and hence this week we are going to take a look at one of the most famous pieces of old tat ever sold through magazine small ads - yes, the highly mendacious miracles that are the Sea Monkeys!

Now I would imagine that most of you first came across this bizarre from of aquatic pet through the pages of a comic, and indeed if you lived outside the US, specifically in the pages of an American comic book. And that isn't some amazing demonstration of my psychic powers folks, just some old fashioned Holmesian deduction! For while some younger readers may well have picked up some Sea Monkeys in a toy or pet store in more recent years, for a long time mail order ads were the only place you could get Sea Monkeys - something that perhaps contributed to their sales as we'll shortly discover. What's more they advertised in more or less every comic book going, with their creator regularly taking out more than 3 million pages of ads in a year back in the 1960s and 1970s!

Now I am sure I'm not alone in being totally mystified and intensely curious about what these alleged wonder pets actually were. Surely there wasn't a race of diminutive merfolk with strange crowned heads and pot bellies you could keep in a fish tank? Wouldn't I have heard about these so-called Sea Monkeys before? Surely David Attenborough and Johnny Morris would have told me about them on the telly if they were as amazing as the ads made out. But as I was in the UK, I knew sending off for them was probably a no go, and so it would be literally years after first seeing that ad - in the pages of a House of Mystery if I recall correctly - before I discovered the truth.

The saga of the Sea Monkeys begins back in the late 1950s, when a chap named Harold von Braunhut spotted a species of brine shrimp named Artemia Salina being sold in a pet store. Now these little creatures inhabit salt water lakes and the interesting thing that von Braunhut discovered about them was the fact that these little fellows had an interesting defence against their habitats drying up. This was a process known as cryptobiosis - essentially the micro shrimps would form a protective casing around themselves and go into a suspended state until water returned.  

This remarkable survival trick fascinated von Braunhut, and he realised that possibly with some tinkering, the brine shrimp's method of cryptobiosis could make it the first just-add-water pet. Hence with the help of microcrustacean expert Dr Anthony D'Agostino, a formula was devised to add the necessary saline and other environmental elements to make ordinary tap water a habitat from brine shrimp. Soon they had cracked it, and von Braunhut's new pet was ready to go. He named his new creation "Instant Life" and it cost just half a dollar. But back then your 49 cents you just got a couple of packets of formula and eggs - you had to supply your own tank, although as the ads pointed out, you could hatch these creatures in an ordinary jar!

And so in the early '60s, he began to look at getting his product into toy stores. However a similar product from the famous toy company Wham-O - the folks who brought you the hula hoop, the frisbee and silly string to name but a few - had just been created, the Instant Fish. This projected toy was thought to be the next Big Thing and had caused massive excitement within the industry. Certainly it sounded amazing! A tank that came with a block of mud that contained egg of the African killifish, just add water and hence presto an aquarian full of rainbow coloured exotic fish. However the Instant Fish had bombed badly when it was realised they could produce enough eggs on a regular basis to support a toy line. And therefore when von Braunhut was shopping around his own just-add-water pet kit, none of the big players were the slightest bit interesting fearing another Instant Fish fiasco. 

So then, von Braunhut looked to sell directly to the customer and began to advertise in comics. The beauty of advertising in comic-books was that firstly it was very cheap, and secondly you could reach your target market of children directly. And as you could send coins, no cheques, credit cards or postal orders were needed, so no parents who might veto replying to odd small ads in comic books needed to be involved!  Soon now he was taking out bigger and better ads, and now with a new brand name - Sea Monkeys. Incidentally the name "Sea Monkeys" came from the fact that the tails of the brine shrimp reminded von Braunhut of monkey's tails, while the sea part was simply down to the fact they lived in salt water... Although technically brine shrimp live in salt lakes rather than oceans. However that was the least perplexing thing about the newly minted Sea Monkeys. For the bigger and better ads, Von Braunhut enlisted the talents of a true comic book legend, Joe Orlando, who duly came up with the now iconic art featuring a family of very bizarre looking beings (as seen at the top of this page).

However despite many kids being disappointed they now didn't owe a colony of miniature merfolk, and that often the brine shrimp tended not to live very long, the Sea Monkeys business prospered. But in fairness, Von Braunhut did offer a 2 year guarantee for replacement eggs if yours died, and over the years he developed a new hardier breed of shrimp that lived longer. And clearly plenty of kids got over that initially disappointing discovery that they'd bought a tank of little shrimps, for lucrative sidelines soon sprang up, food packets, new batches of formula, and a host of accessories (usually tanks in novelty shapes). Eventually, the Sea Monkey brand was so successful that the kits began to appear in toy stores at last! Now over fifty years later, they are still selling well to this very day. Of course those old somewhat fanciful, if not downright mendacious ads are now long gone, but Joe Orlando's mer-family are still going strong, now serving as brand mascots.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

HYPNOGORIA 54 - A Tribute to Bernie Wrightson

In this special episode, Mr Jim Moon pays tribute to one of the all time great artists in horror, Mr Bernie Wrightson - creator of Swamp Thing, illustrator of Frankenstein, star of  horror comics from Warren and DC, and collaborator with Stephen King.

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  A Tribute to Bernie Wrightson

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Friday, 31 March 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Secret Life of Statues

The Red Lion of  Sturminster Newton

In recent weeks we've been investigating the odd behaviour of assorted stone monuments. And aside from various standing stones and megaliths being prone to start mucking about when no one is watching - revolving, walking and even going swimming - we have also found that these seemingly supernatural powers of animation and movement extend to more recent man-made stoneworks such as statues as well. And while there is a massive historical and cultural gulf between a modern piece of public art and an ancient dolmen erected in the earliest years of human civilisation, it would seem that they often share the same folkloric tradition of moving themselves about by magic. 

Firstly we have great many statues that like to go for a wander on the quiet. A statue at Lacock Abbey is said to animate and go for a stroll at the stroke of midnight, while in the heart of London, at St Queen Anne Gate, the stone version of the aforementioned monarch takes an annual constitutional around the neighbourhood on the 1st of August every year. At Burroughs Green in Cambridgeshire, once a year on the night of the 30th of April, a pair of statues on the school door are said to get off their perches and dance on the village green. While on a more eerie note, St Lawrence's Churchyard, in Darlaston, it is said the figure of a child on a monument to a deceased mother and infant has been seen wandering off on its own through the graves. And there are many more examples too, many of which that display the two distinct patterns that we have already encountered with moving megaliths - either animating on the stroke of midnight or upon a specific date.

Much like their relatives, the standing stones, a surprising number of statues and stonework figures seem to enjoy popping off for a drink too. A sculpture known locally as Stone Moses at Weekly in Northamptonshire, is said to animate on the stroke of midnight and make its way down to the River Ise for a drink. Outside the Red Lion pub in the village of Sturminster Newton, in Dorset, is a stone effigy of the titular beast, which according to the locals climbs down from its plinth at the stroke of midnight to take a drink from the old water pump by the town bridge. Once again this is a surprisingly widespread tradition, will all manner of statues of people and animals leaving their native plinths, pedestals and perches to nip off for a drop or two. Even some weathervanes are said to indulge in this behaviour too, However my favourite tale of this type concerns the brilliant named folly, Jack the Treacle Eater Tower at Barwick, Yeovil. Thought to have been built around the 1820s, this eccentric structure is a huge arch of rough stone that supports a spire-like tower, topped with a statue of Hermes. Supposedly it commemorates a faithful messenger boy named Jack who would run errands between Barwick and London with only a pot of treacle for sustenance. According to legend, at midnight the statue climbs down to either take a drink from the nearby lake, or according to some go hunting for any left-over treacle!

Jack The Treacle Eater

We tend to think of folklore as stories that are old or antique, but age seems to be no barrier in this tradition of stories. For example, Leeds Town Hall is guarded by stone lions sculpted by William Keyworth, and despite being erected in 1867, there are still local legends that these stone beasts leave their plinths and prowl around at night. Even more recently, the city of Nottingham gained a new Council House in 1929. Erected at Old Market Square, the impressive building is guarded by art deco stone lions created by local sculptor Joseph Else. However despite being an 20th century addition to the civic landscape, these stone beasts already have their own folklore - it is said that they will roar when a virgin passes by them!  And despite this seeming to be somewhat bizarre behaviour, even in the world of living statuary, they are not the only stonework to do this - it is also said that the red lion statue outside the Cameron's Lion brewery in Hartlepool does the same. 

So then what are we to make of all this? Well, as is often the case with mysterious phenomena, it is probably a mistake to look for one catch-all explanation. However we can identify some common threads running throughout the folklore of statues and standing stones. Firstly the last two mentioned examples give us a clue to the origin of some of these strange tales of stones with a life of their own. Those stone lions which roar at passing virgins I rather suspect are an oblique form of local joke - the punchline of which either the listener must deduce for themselves, or was too smutty for polite folklorists to record. The gag is that thanks to the morals (or lack of) in the local populace, no one has ever heard the stone beasts roar! And while the roaring lion stories may be a little nudge-nudge wink-wink, it is not unreasonable to assume that many other tales of living statues are similar tall tales told to amuse. The British sense of humour famously has a surreal streak, and spinning implausible tales of the athletic prowess of objects such as large lumps of stone that are clearly very immobile fits very well with our love of the absurd.

For example, a common feature is that these stones move if they hear the chimes of twelve, and here the joke is that stones of course can never hear anything! Some legends appear to be more explicit on this front, for example the Cheesewring performs its revolutions if it hears a cock crow (as detailed here) but as it is located in the middle of a moor, there are no farms anywhere nearby, and hence there are no cocks to hear crowing. Likewise the standing stone in Pyrford (see here) is said to revolve when the church clock chimes twelve, except the church has neither clock nor chimes!

However as  I said, we should not make the mistake of looking for a one-fits-all origin for these tales.
Certainly in this series we have discussed several stones who have appeared to have had attached generic tales of movement and other unusual habits to them, and judging by the surprising amount of very recent folklore surrounding statues it would appear that these stone stories are still spreading even in the modern age. But I suspect some types of story are older than others. In the course of this little series of little articles we have encounters several stones that are said to be immovable in some way or another, whether being impossible to shift in the first place, or possessing the ability to return from wherever they are moved to. Now these kinds of stories I suspect come from an older, darker tradition - for like many other folk-tales, these stories are meant as prescriptions or warnings, a colourful (and hence memorable) way to spreading the message that certain sites or objects are out of bounds and not to be messed about with. The legend of the rampaging Wimblestone is an excellent example of this - not only will the stone attack anyone who attempts to move it, but the old tales acknowledge and re-empt an important assumption: that as the Wimblestone is a remnant of an ancient site there must be treasure there. In addressing what might be a common motive for wanting to disturb the stone, the legends make it clear that the effort is not worth the risk, and it would be very foolish to try. After all, not messing about with very old things or places is a common warning found in many branches of folklore.

the stone lions of Nottingham

Considering that over the centuries many ancient sites were lost, as fields were ploughed up and the stones broken and moved, this particular strand of stone lore may well have evolved out of early concerns about  preserving our past. And while our forebears may not have had any idea of exactly how ancient some sites were, being old and mysterious was enough to give them local and historic importance, and so warning stories grew up around them. On a related note, I wonder if the various tales about moving statues is an echo or a remnant of this tradition; perhaps a milder and in some cases light-hearted way of discouraging boisterous youths from climbing on them and deterring would-be vandals.

Of course, there is always the human tendency to anthropomorphise anything around us. And given that our statutes often resemble ourselves or familiar animals, it is not surprising that people down the ages have entertained each other with stories that these objects that remind us of living things have secret lives of their own. And while it is more of a stretch to imagine the same imaginative process at work with some of the standing stones we have talked about in this series, in other case, in particular with rings of stones that are said to dance, it does seem possible that once again folks have imagined these old monuments come to life at certain magical times.

Something that is nigh on impossible to discover, but would shed a good deal of light on the matter, would be know how seriously folks in past ages took these stories. Were they ever seriously believed? Or were they always just a surreal bit of whimsy and told with a tongue in the cheek? However whatever the origins of these tales, the fact that such stories are still springing up around modern statues shows that such tales still clearly hold a deep appeal for us. And given that these strange tales of stone-lore have not only survived but have continued to thrive into modern times, I suspect it is a story tradition that will continue for many years yet to come... 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat #11 - Even More Death & Horror

Hello dear guys and ghouls! Welcome back to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Come in, sit down, and make yourself comfy! For I've got the battered old gramophone out again and some prime platters to spin for you! 

Now then, on our last visit to the 'Orrible Old 'Ouse, we learned about the infamous Volume 13 of the BBC Sound Effects record series - Sounds of Death & Horror. An infamous disc that brought us a host of memorable tracks with titles such as "Head Chopped Off" and "Heavy Breathing (Female)". And despite the somewhat predictably outcry from self-appointed moral guardians, the LP was a huge success. and the BBC were soon looking to give the kids what they wanted - another volume of gruesome and gory sounds! 

So then, a year after the first album's release, 1978 saw the Sound Effects series of LPs reach Volume 21, and this addition to the series was to be another black disc of violent vinyl! For this LP was Sound Effects No. 21 More Death & Horror! Once again helmed by the Radiophonic Workshop's Mike Harding, and this time aided and abetted by Peter Harwood, this putrescent platter served 21 tracks of madness, mutilation and mayhem! And once again it came in a brilliantly lurid sleeve designed Mr Andrew Prewitt

Now unlike its predecessor, this reprehensible record wasn't arranged into handy sections. Rather this lurid long player just jetted one long torrent of terror at the listener! There were 26 tracks in all, and here's the full run-down of those golden greats!
  1. Death Of The Fly
  2. Vampire Feeding
  3. Death By Harikiri
  4. Sweeney Todd The Barber
  5. Wind Through Crack In Door
  6. Wind In The Trees
  7. Synthesised Wind (Electronic)
  8. Sea Monster
  9. Sharpening The Knife
  10. Falling Scream
  11. Premature Burial
  12. Wild Dogs
  13. The Iron Maiden
  14. Death In The Swamp
  15. The Sewer Rats
  16. The Poisoned Drink
  17. The Rack
  18. Midnight Strangler
  19. Assorted Gun Shots
  20. At The Dentist
  21. Time Bomb
  22. Death By Electrocution
  23. Gouging Eyeballs
  24. Russian Roulette
  25. Death By Garrotting
  26. Suicide by Gas 

Now if I had a criticism, I would say that personally I'd have been inclined to tweak the running order so that "Synthesised Wind (Electronic)" would have been followed by "Suicide by Gas", purely for comedy reasons. However the inclusion of the track "At the Dentist" does rather suggest the makers did indeed had a dark sense of humour., albeit one not as childish as mine. Anywho, if you wish to hear the killer cuts above, here they are courtesy of some thieving git on Tube of You... 

However that's not the end of this grisly saga! For there was a third LP in the series! Well, three is the charm as they say. Released a few years later in 1982, Even More Death & Horror BBC Sound Effects Vol. 27 hit the record stores to serve up one final deadly disc of doom and destruction. 

Now of all the LPs in Sound Effects horror trilogy, this platter is now the rarest. And it was also the shortest, clocking in at a mere 27 minutes. However what a mad half hour it was! And while it may have been the briefest outing in the world of lurid listening, certainly it featured perhaps the most imaginative and darkly hilarious tracklisting yet!

1 Intentional Death
Staking A Vampire - Three Mallet Blows
Two Throat Cuts Or Two Throats Cut
The Gas Chamber - The Cyanide Tablets Drop Into The Acid Releasing The Deadly Fumes
Wrists Cut - The Blood Drips Into The Bucket
Assorted Stabbing
Drilling Into The Head - Enough Said
Body Put Into The Acid Bath
Self Immolation
Silencer (Pistol) - Vocal/Synth/Mechanical
Electric Fire Thrown Into The Bath
Boiling Oil - Poured Off The Castle Wall

2 Torture
Tongue Pulled Out
Fingernails Pulled Out - Assorted
Fingers Chopped Off (5)
Trial By Ordeal - A "Medievil" Practice Where The Accused Would Pick A Ring Out Of A Deep Pot Of Boiling Water - If The Resulting Burns Healed Up Quickly The He/She Was Innocent - Some Chance!
Whipping - A Touch Of The Lash Keeps You On Your Toes (Or Knees)
Torture Lab - A.D. 2500

3 Accidental (?) Death
Lift Falling (With Passengers)
Female Falling From A Height (Ladies First)
Male Falling From A Height

4 Reaction (To The Sounds You've Just Heard)
Viz: Involuntary Regurgitation

5 Nasty Animals And Birds
Werewolf - The Transformation From Human To Beast
Giant Killer Bees - No Honey From These
Sleeping Dragon - Don't Waken It Up
Dragon - On The Move Through The Bushes - With Occasional Flaming Bad Breath
Dragon Kill - The Death Of The Monster
Pterodactyl Flying - With Squawks
Vultures Feeding - If You Lie Around Long Enough, They'll Clean You Out
Piranha Fish Feeding - Don't Go For A Swim
In The Snake Pit - They Hiss With Forked Tongues
"The Birds" Attack A Feed - On What You May Ask
Triffids - (i) Sting (ii) "Talking"

And so then, while this may be the shortest outing in the series, and its sleeve art seems somewhat lacking compared to the phantasmagoria of the previous two volumes, even the harshest critic would be forced to admit that they really out-did themselves with the track listing for this one! Every opportunity for a ghoulish gag is taken! It's all killer and no filler! A very fitting end to the series I feel.

However there is a postscript to this tale. For some five or six years later, nearly a decade after the first LP's release, in a few issues of the blood-drenched Fangoria magazine, the following advertisement appeared under the heading "Sound o' Splatter"... They just don't write ad copy like this anymore... 

Saturday, 25 March 2017

HYPNOGORIA 53 - Zombi Zombi Part X: Reanimating the Dead

In this episode, Mr Jim Moon explores the original dawn of the dead... when the zombie first shambled from folklore into horror fiction. Hence we are taking a look the first zombie tales that appeared in the 1930s, including HP Lovecraft's early classic Herbert West: Reanimator

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  Zombi Zombi Part X: Reanimating the Dead

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Friday, 24 March 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - Man-size in Marble

Over the past few months we have been exploring the curious lore surrounding assorted ancient monuments that holds that at certain times, they move, rotate, walk, wander off for a drink, and even go for a swim. Along the way, we have frequently encountered theories that these strange old tales are perhaps rooted in the now lost and forgotten rites of our pagan ancestors; the legend of a standing stone that is said to dance or move around is a folk mis-remembering times when the locals would dance or move around the specially erected rock and so forth. However, we have frequently found that this magical power of animation seems to extend to assorted stones and monuments that have a far more recent origin. 

In the last instalment, while talking of stones that in a most surreal fashion that pop off for a drink or to take a dip, I could not help but be reminded of a book I read as a child - The Enchanted Castle (1907) by E Nesbit. Now in this classic children's novel, we learn that the statues in the garden of Yalding Castle enjoy a secret life of their own at night - 
Something white moved under a weeping willow; white hands parted the long, rustling leaves. A white figure came out, a creature with horns and goat's legs and the head and arms of a boy. And Gerald was not afraid. That was the most wonderful thing of all, though he would never have owned it. The white thing stretched its limbs, rolled on the grass, righted itself and frisked away across the lawn. Still something white gleamed under the willow; three steps nearer and Gerald saw that it was the pedestal of a statue empty.
"They come alive," he said; and another white shape came out of the Temple of Flora and disappeared in the laurels. "The statues come alive."
One of the castle's stone exhibits, a sculpture of a prehistoric saurian, also comes to life, and even goes for a swim in the lake, much like the standing stones we discussed last time.

At first, given that this is a magical tale for children, it would be easy to dismiss this coincidence as a mere piece of whimsy. However I then also recalled another tale by Nesbit, one that I heartily recommend not reading to the little ones! For E Nesbit also penned a great many tales for grown-ups, including a host of top notch macabre tales, and one of the most celebrated is a short story entitled Man-size in Marble. In that story, (which you can hear me read here) a young couple move to a country cottage where all is pleasant and idyllic, except for a curious local legend concerning some effigies in the the local church...
"They do say, as on All Saints' Eve them two bodies sits up on their slabs, and gets off of them, and then walks down the aisle, in their marble"--(another good phrase, Mrs. Dorman)--"and as the church clock strikes eleven they walks out of the church door, and over the graves, and along the bier-balk, and if it's a wet night there's the marks of their feet in the morning."
Now while the animated statuary in The Enchanted Castle sounds like imaginative fun for young minds, the account of stalking statues in Man-size in Marble very much has the ring of authentic folklore about it, in particular the detail that they animate annually on a certain night of the year. Was there perhaps a real legend that Nesbit had heard which had provided the inspiration for this classic horror tale? 

My first port of call was the excellent Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore (2000) by Jacqueline Simpson and Steve Roud, and there was indeed a dedicated entry on statues. And aside from noting a widespread tradition of touching various statues for luck, we also have this - 
The other recurrent piece of folklore about a statue is the assertion that it gets down from its pedestal and walks about, or sits down for a rest, whenever it hears midnight strike; the lions at the door of Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge either roar or drink from the gutter
So then, it was indeed very likely that Nesbit's tale was informed by real folklore. And what's more, it did not take me long to find a possible candidate. At the Holy Trinity Church in the village of Ingham, Norfolk are the tombs of two knights, Sir Oliver de Ingham and Sir Roger de Bois. And according to local legend on the night of the 1st of August, ever year the stone effigies get down from their tombs and take a stroll down to the nearby Stalham Broad. In a highly dubious account related by Chas Sampson in Ghosts of the Broads (Jarrold 1976), it is alleged that when they reach the water's edge, the stone knights engaged in battle with the shade of a foreign knight.

However given that the same account claims that investigators not only witnessed all these strange events, but also photographed the now empty tomb plinths, and even took movie footage of the stone effigies lumbering away, we should perhaps take the claims of a battle with a chap wield a scimitar with a pinch of salt or two. One cannot help wondering whether the entire .Ingham story was completely fabricated to fill out a book of spooky Norfolk tales - something which I fear is quite likely as the volume was clearly aimed at tourists. But even if  that were case, the tale would appear to have been inspired in turn by actual folklore. For as I was to discover, there is no shortage of stories about statues that come to life...

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat #10 - Sounds of Death & Horror

Now then last time in the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat, we had wheeled out the ancient gramophone (ask your parents kids!) and had a delve into the wonderful world of BBC Sound Effects records. We reminisced about the classic first platter of SF sounds conjured by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop BBC Sound Effects Vol. 12 Out of This World, but this wasn't the only vinyl treat that is fondly remembered by genre fans. And the next addition to the series, appropriately enough Volume 13, was a disc that was to become infamous!  

For the next in the range, unleashed on record shops in 1977, was entitled Sound Effects Vol. 13 Death & Horror! The suitably gruesome cover art was created by Andrew Prewitt, who was actually the Head of Creative Services at BBC Records & Tapes, and by his own admission he went for the most lurid images he could possibly get away with back then. The record itself served up a whopping 91 different gruesome sound effects, with classic tracks such as "Red Hot Poker in Eye" and "Dr Jekyll's Laboratory". Weirdly enough none of these ever stormed the singles chart...

Much like its SF-themed predecessor, this infamous vinyl was divided up into handy themed sections. We open with Execution and Torture, featuring easy listening greats such as "Neck Twisted and Broken" and "Nails Hammered into Flesh", and then we move onto Monsters and Animals, which brings us soothing sounds such as "Mad Gorilla" and "Hellhound (Growling and Snarling)". Moving on, next we have some excellent chillout sounds for the busy maniac in the shape of Creaking Doors and Grave Digging, (featuring "Grave Digging (Stony Ground)" and "Grave Digging (Wet Ground)", while the following selection, Musical Effects and Footsteps delivers classics such as "Phantom of the Opera (Organ Sounds)" and "Ghostly Footsteps (With Chains)". The LP next brings assorted ululations for your delectation, with Vocal Effects and Heartbeats, offering smash hits like ("Three Men Screaming" and "One Long Scream (Female)". And finally this blood-drenched platter closes with Weather, Atmospheres and Bells (surely a band name waiting to happen), which serves up ambient classics such as "Midnight in the Graveyard" and "The Electronic Swamp". The full glorious track listing can seen below and be found here.

Helmed by Mike Harding (no, not the comedian/folk singer of the same name sadly), a veteran producer and engineer at both the Beeb and the Radiophonic Workshop, this LP seemed to cause something of a stir at the time. Mostly people thought it was hilarious that there was now an LP where you could hear classic cuts like "The Scaffold (Trap Opens, Body Falls" or "Sawing Leg Off", but of course there were a few who were predictably outraged and worried about the nation's yoof grooving to the sounds of "Branding Iron on Flesh". The dear old BBC itself however seemed delighted with the entire affair, and I vividly remember seeing assorted boffins turning up on several popular TV shows and demonstrating how they made all these delightfully ghoulish and gross sounds. 

Now a few of the tracks were real field recordings, although sadly "Dracula in Flight" wasn't actually taped in the wild. But the tracks showcasing the sounds of bats were recording of real creatures done by Eric Simms. However the bulk of the LP was down the ingenuity of the sound effects wizards, with the more gruesome sounds being mainly the sound of violence against vegetables. I remember being very impressed you could make such hideous noises with ordinary kitchen implements and the week's groceries. And if you want to see this kind of thing in action, you can see a whole variety of horror sound effects being created in the exact same way in the movie Berberian Sound Studio which I reviewed on my podcast a while ago (on this episode here). 

While this record does not work as well as a complete soundscape like the volume before Out of This World did, all the same it was a great favourite with monster obsessed kids everywhere, and many folks have fond memories of scaring themselves daft playing these tracks over and over again. Of course these days, copies of the original release are highly prized, and go for a pretty penny. However last year, it was re-issued by Demon Records, and on 180g blood splattered vinyl too! 

But back in the late '70s, the LP proved to be so popular, that the BBC would issue, not one, but two follow-up LPs. And next time dear fiends, we'll be giving them a spin to see what they contain. However in the meantime, here's the Monsters and Animals section from the original!  

Sunday, 19 March 2017

GREAT LIBRARY OF DREAMS 32 - Zombi Zombi Part IX - Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields

The Zombi Zombi series continues with a very special reading of the true origin of the walking dead. Mr Jim Moon presents the original account of zombieism "Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields" from William Seabrook's book The Magic Island. We go on to learn much more of voodoo, Haiti, its history and, of course, its zombies...
DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  Zombi Zombi Part IX - Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields

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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat #09 - Out of this World

Hello again dear friends, and welcome once again to the 'Orrible 'Ouse of Terrible Old Tat! Now then last time our rooting about through the cobwebbed crates in here was inspired by my recollection of an ad in an ancient copy of Fangoria. Now while leafing through my boxes of old Fangos looking for the ad in question to scan, I chanced upon another little advertisement which prompted a whole new search through the dusty depths ofs the 'Orrible Old 'Ouse. 

As I've remarked before, and undoubtedly will remark again frequently in these articles, the pre-internet world now looks like a very strange place. For it was a place where if you missed a movie or a TV show, it was pretty gone forever. Now it is true that the dawning of the age of home video and cable TV did bring us endless repeats and boxed sets of video cassettes, but obviously these were just primitive, crude ancestors of the on-demand playground we now have, the all you can eat digital sweetshop that never closes. However for many decades, before VCRs and cable/satellite telly, there was another medium in which films and TV shows lived on, a strange netherworld where old favourites could be re-lived, well in part anyway. Welcome to the strange world of the tie-in record! Now to begin with there were releases of favourite theme tunes and soundtracks, and then assorted ill-judged stabs at the pop charts and tie-in novelty records. Sometimes you could even a purely audio version of a movie or show, admittedly often edited down and with inserted narration to make sense on non dialogue bits. And with the record industry enjoying its golden age in the 60s and 70s, it's not surprising that many broadcasters decided to cut out the middle man and began setting up their own record labels. 

Hence in 1967 the BBC began releasing all manner of assorted tie-in records as BBC Radio Enterprises. As the name suggests, in the early days it was drawing heavily on its extensive radio back catalog, with one of the earliest releases being a Goon Show LP.  The venture was great success, and by 1970 it had become the catchier sounding BBC Records, and the label would morphed once again in 1974 into BBC Records & Tapes when the new-fangled audio cassette took off. However aside from repackaging old shows in vinyl and cassette and releasing themes and music, something very odd happened. 

It was noted that the Beeb kept on getting requests from drama groups and amateur film-makers for sound effects. And well they might, for the BBC was famous for having its own dedicated sound division, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which had been founded in 1958 to conjuring up music, jingles and sound effects galore. Now often apparently the boffins at the Workshop would quite obligingly dash off a tape of the requested sound effects and mail it out, but then some bright spark had the idea of releasing whole LPs of sound effects, cutting out a lot of faffing around and making a few quid in the process!

And hence in 1969, the LP BBC Sound Effects No 1 was unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. Now evidently the platter sold well, despite having a somewhat specialised market, as further volumes soon hit the records stores. Now the early volumes were simply assortments of useful sound effects, but as the series progressed they began to specialise, with Volume 10 being titled Music and Sounds for Home Movies. And judging from the track-listing, the home movies in question weren't the sort you mucky sods are looking up online these days. With tracks entitled "The Aegean", "Spain" and "Effects (French cafe)" I'm guessing this LP was intended for use with cine films of people's holidays. Although I grant you that "Effects (Dutch Carnival With Chair Dance)" does sound like an euphemism, and "Cup Bells, Vase Drum" could be a misprint... But moving on! 

And the themed approach continued with the next release, for Volume 11 was entitled Off Beat Sounds - and from the collection of splashes, creaks, squeaks, and doooinnnnnnng! noises, I'm guessing this was designed for amateur comic capers... Although if you were to argue that most home-filmed smut would benefit from a swannee whistle or two, I wouldn't disagree... But the discussion of the acoustic choices in what they used to call "stag reels" aside, it's was with the release of the next volume that things got really exciting!  

For Volume 12 was called.... deep breath... BBC Sound Effects Vol. 12 Out of This World, Atmospheric Sounds and Effects from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Yes, hitting the record stores in 1976, and if I remember rightly often plugged by the voiceover bloke after the final credits for Doctor Who or Blakes 7 had rolled, now you could enjoy a trip to a "Sea of Mercury" or a "Venusian Space Lab" from comfort of your own Parker Knoll. However it wasn't all just "Laser Gun, Five Bursts" and  "Flying Saucer Take-off", for this double LP was was composed of four themed sections, each taking up a  separate side of vinyl. We began our audio odyssey with "Outer Space", and flipped the platter for "Magic and Fantasy". While on the second record we had "Suspense and the Supernatural" and "The Elements". The full tracklist can be found here and you can sample the auditory delights on this video just below!

Now the BBC Sound Effects series would return to the interstellar audio realms once again later on, with 1978's Vol. 19 being Dr Who Sound Effects (see here for details), and again in 1981 with Vol. 26 Sci-Fi Sound Effects (details here). However undoubtedly this first excursion into fantastical radiophonic ambience is still the classic. Firstly because the credited artists are the stuff of TV legend. And if you watch a lot of classic BBC shows, and not just their SF offerings by the way, names like Dick Mills and Roger Limb you'll recognise from countless credit sequences. However the second reason why it is so great is that is because it actually works rather well as a complete soundscape in itself, for as well as spacey sound effects there were little soundscapes of what we would now call ambient music or electronica. Indeed the likes of Radiophonic Workshop alumni such as Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson are now recognised as pioneers of electronic music making. And certainly plenty of musicians listened very closely to this LP, and it should be perhaps no surprise then that the sounds of this double album have been sampled countless times over the years.

In this regard, BBC Sound Effects Vol. 12 Out of This World, Atmospheric Sounds and Effects from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is a truly classic record in its own right. This was an LP that was snapped up by kids obsessed with spaceships, robots and monsters, kids who later would be messing about with samplers and sequences and inventing musical genres like acid house, techno, trance and ambient. Given its landmark status and influence, it's only right and proper that the album was re-released on CD in 1991 as Essential Science Fiction Sound Effects Vol. 2. and was re-released on vinyl LP in 2012 by AudioGo and Discovery Records. 

However this wasn't the only legendary sound effect LP produced by the BBC, for the next volume in the series would prove to be highly memorable to genre fans of a certain age, although perhaps for very different reasons...

Sunday, 12 March 2017

GREAT LIBRARY OF DREAMS 31 - Zombi Zombi Part VIII - Jumbee

In this special tie-in episode of From the Great Library of Dreams, we sample a tale of caribbean terror from Henry S Whitehead, the classic Jumbee, and learn more of the strange lore of the supernatural that lies within the origins of the zombie! 

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  Zombi Zombi Part VIII - Jumbee

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FROM THE GREAT LIBRARY OF DREAMS is hosted by GeekPlanetOnline and is part of the ROGUE TWO Podcasting network.

Friday, 10 March 2017

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Thirsty Stones

The King's Men at the Rollright Stones

In this little series of articles we have been discussing the curious lore surrounding the standing stones and ancient monuments of the British Isles. So far we have investigated tales of rocks that revolve and rotate, megaliths that move about the countryside on their own, and last time, we discovered that allegedly some stones even come to life and dance. And when discussing the animated antics of the famous Rollright Stones, we discovered that local folklore claims they have another peculiar habit, that of sloping off in the dead of night to go for a drink. Now obviously the ancient stones are not sliding into the bar of the Red Lion in nearby Long Compton for a swift half - that would be patently ridiculous - however it is said that the Rollrights make their way down the hill to sip from a spring in nearby woodland. 

Most curious behaviour I'm sure you'll agree. However surprisingly the Rollright Stones are not the only ancient rocks with a taste for water, for it would seem that many British standing stones have something of thirst. To begin with we have another tale of that baddest of rock stars, the Wimblestone (see here for details of its other exploits). According to an old story recounted by R Tongue in Somerset Folklore (1965), the often highly mobile and aggressive Wimblestone was prone to pay a visit to another ancient monument, the Water Stone near Wrington. Now this actually an arrangement of stones that are all that remains of a neolithic burial chamber, and this dolmen seems to take its name from the fact that rain collects in one of the large slabs. According to Tongue's tale, after an altercation with a pesky human, the Wimblestone wandered over the Mendips to carp to the Water Stone about how stupid mortals are, and help itself to a drink of cooling rainwater. 

Other ancient rocks however are somewhat better behaved. At Enstone is another arrangement of stones, the remains of a chambered tomb, known as the Hoar Stone. According to a local legend, the three largest standing stones here are the remains of a man, his horse and his hound who were turned to stone. Unfortunately the story of why this petrification occured seems to be lost in the mists of time. However local lore holds that on Midsummer Eve - a favourite time for stones to go a-moving about on their own it seems - the largest stone, sometimes called 'the Old Soldier' slips off down to the village to take a drink from the stream there.

The Hoar Stone

Nipping off from a drink would appear to be a popular pastime among the remaining stones of ancient burial chambers. Arthur's Stone, another cromlech near Gower in Wales, aside from numerous connections to Arthurian legend, is said to stroll off for a crafty drink of water when no mortals are around. Furthermore it would seem that the stones of Wales are particularly thirsty. Near the village of Evenjobb in Powys, are four standing stones known simply as the Four Stones. And while one may decry the lack of imagination in their naming, their lore is certainly colourful enough with local tales alleging that at midnight the quartet make their way to Hindwell Pool for a refreshing drink. Also in Powys is Maen Llia, or Llia's Stone - and this menhir too is fond of drink, supposedly favouring a morning stroll at dawn to have sup from the River Nedd. While at Reynoldston, another Arthur's Stone is alleged to make an annual trip down to the sea to take a drink. 

For a few stones though, just popping off for a simple drink is not enough. Once again in Powys, Wales, one can find near Crickhowell, the Fish Stone, a tall menhir whose tapering form is somewhat piscine. However it is possible that its name does not merely derive from its shape, but from an old legend that claims on Midsummer Eve once again, the stone not only makes its way to the nearby River Usk but goes for a swim in the waters. Likewise the King Stone, near Hay-on-Wye, in Herefordshire, likes a dip too. Although rather than observing some date of mystical significance, the Fish Stone apparently only bobs off for a swim on very hot days.

Quite why so many ancient standing stones have an attraction to water is something of mystery. However it would appear that it is something that has spread to other items of stonework. For in Langton Herring in the fair county of Dorset, is an ancient cross. Now much weathered by the passing centuries, this is a wayside cross, a small monument erected in the medieval period, considerably later than the assorted stones we have been discussing. However, mere whippersnapper it may be, local lore claims that on New Year's Eve, the Langton Cross makes it way to the River Fleet to take a drink.

Now in this series of little articles, we have discovered that a great many ancient standing stones are claimed to move about of their own volition. Now, the Langton Cross looks rugged and weathered enough to be mistaken for a more ancient monolith, but discovering a relatively recent stone behaving in the same way got me wondering... And next time, we'll discover if there are other modern stones and monuments that are alleged to magically move too

The Langton Cross